WORKS: Prélude, choral et fugue; Prélude, aria et final; Troisième choral; Danse lente; Grand caprice; Les plaintes d’une poupée
PERFORMER: Stephen Hough (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66918
Anyone who is sceptical about César Franck’s music should listen to this disc. It is hard to imagine better performances of the two grand triptychs from Franck’s final decade. Hough’s great virtues are precision and fastidious ‘voicing’, or the way he balances notes against each other. He is also very imaginative. He uses quite a lot of rubato, especially in the Prelude of the first and better-known triptych, but keeps a sense of line, and he knows how to build both works as big designs, achieving their different senses of apotheosis to devastating effect.
Hough’s transcription of the third organ Choral is magnificently effective, with extraordinary bass resonances in this fine recording. Cortot called the Grand caprice of 1843 the most individual of Franck’s early piano works: it certainly has a lot of notes, excitingly played here. The short Danse lente and Les plaintes d’une poupée reveal Hough’s exquisite control of tonal shading and sensitive rhythmic shaping in the simplest music. Adrian Jack